OCEANSIDE — The City of Oceanside is dedicating $1 million from its coronavirus relief funds to nonprofit organizations, nearly three times more than the amount originally approved, after receiving criticism that the city’s initial proposal was too low.
Staff from the city manager’s office presented its breakdown of how the city has so far spent and plans to spend its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds at the Oct. 6 council meeting. The city is set to receive nearly $32.4 million broken down into two $16.2 million tranches of money. The first installment came in May, and the second is due to arrive in May 2022.
Oceanside has until 2024 to determine how it will spend the money, and until 2026 to actually spend it.
Originally the main focus of staff’s presentation was to update the Oceanside City Council and also receive approval to allocate $12.3 million in ARPA funds to replace lost city revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That focus changed slightly after Max Disposti, executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, pointed out what he described as a “great offense” to him in the spending plan: the allocation of only $350,000 to be used to help nonprofits in the city.
“To me, that proposal was an offense and slap in the face,” Disposti told the council.
Disposti noted that while the city was on lockdown during the pandemic, many nonprofits had to stay open to help feed, shelter and take care of others.
“If I applied I have a chance to get $10,000,” Disposti said. “It averages about $2,000 per non-profit.”
According to the city, it is unclear how many non-profits are based in Oceanside, but there are more than 150 organizations categorized as “non-profit” in the city’s business license database and more than 850 tax-exempt organizations registered with the Internal Revenue Service.
Disposti also took issue with the staff’s draft framework of its nonprofit grant program, which would determine the criteria and amount that a non-profit would receive through an application process.
One of the examples of questions that could be included in the grant application asked nonprofits to describe how their work would help speed up the tourism industry in Oceanside. Additionally, nonprofits would need to demonstrate their ability to benefit the tourism sector as part of the program’s scoring rubric.
“What does that have to do with the work a nonprofit does? That’s not my mission,” Disposti said. “Why do you require me to improve the tourist area when I have to save lives in Oceanside?”
Based in Oceanside, North County LGBTQ Resource Center provides services including youth support groups, seniors, military service members, HIV/AIDS testing and prevention, counseling and civil rights advocacy as well as classes and workgroups to all of North County and surrounding areas.
Disposti noted that in San Marcos, a city with half the population of Oceanside, Council approved a plan to allocate $3 million to non-profits there. He also pointed out that nonprofits are the second-largest trade economy in Oceanside and in San Diego County in general.
“Non-profits contribute to the region’s economy by securing grants, contracts, and other revenues and employ more than 121,000 people,” Disposti wrote in an email to Council prior to the meeting. “We stayed open while serving the most vulnerable… we were here when the Council was closed and working from home, we were here to risk our lives and spent thousands of dollars from our own donors and pockets to support these efforts.”
Council originally approved its ARPA spending plan back in early August, which included up to $350,000 for nonprofits. After hearing from Disposti, Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim motioned to increase that amount to $1 million to be taken from the proposed lost revenue funds allocation.
Keim also noted that he wants to come back at a later date to reevaluate other needs that come up in the future.
Assistant City Manager Michael Gossman explained that the criteria seemingly requiring nonprofits to benefit tourism in some way was a misunderstanding and that such a clause was not intended. He also noted that the program is still in draft form and has yet to be implemented and that the rubric will be reworded to be clearer.
“We’re trying to keep in line with ARPA guidelines,” Gossman said.